It's been a hugely contentious issue for some time, and now the province is backing down. Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced on March 3 that the proposed Ontario classroom cuts will actually be far less severe than they were initially planned to be. Lecce confirmed issues such as class size and mandatory e-learning are being reviewed.

According to CTV News, Lecce made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

The government's class size increase will now see the provincial average lifted from 22.9 students per classroom to 23. Initially, average ratios of 28 pupils to each teacher had been suggested.

Also, the controversial introduction of mandatory e-learning classes is being abandoned. Hgh-school students were set to be required to complete two online courses to fulfill their diplomas.

Parents will instead have the option of having their children opt-out of the e-learning requirement.

At this stage, it is unclear how these announced changes may or may not affect the widespread education strikes that have been taking place across the province for weeks.

Apparently, these changes are aimed at convincing parents that “the [government] is not the bad guy at the table," according to one of CTV's sources from the ministry.

The Globe and Mail reports that Lecce said on Tuesday that these concessions should be enough to prompt unions to cancel future strikes and continue negotiations.

The timing of Lecce's announcement was telling, as it came well under an hour after an Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association statement which insisted the OECTA calling out the government's handling of the situation.

"The bottom line is that despite the government’s rhetoric, negotiations could have been concluded long before Catholic teachers were forced to take any strike action," read the statement.

"Instead, the Ford government has chosen to insult teachers and education workers, and distract and confuse the public, all the while insisting that any agreement must include the permanent removal of resources from classrooms."

As reported by the Toronto Star, all Catholic and French school board teachers will be striking this Thursday, March 5, along with some public high school staff.

All three unions are reportedly orchestrating another mass rally at Queen’s Park. Around 15,000 people are expected to take part.

Per the Star, the president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association said of class sizes the day before Lecce's announcement, "We support last year’s 22 — the closer we can get to 22 to 1, the better it is for kids. That’s the bottom line.”

As for dropping the idea of compulsory e-learning, a recent Toronto District School Board survey of teachers, parents, and students found that 97% of high school teachers do not support the policy.

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